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A Viral Video, Outrage, Then Things Got Complicated

It was like a 'Rorschach test,' says one observer of the initial reaction
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2019 3:23 PM CST
An image from Saturday's incident in Washington, DC.   (Survival Media Agency via AP)

(Newser) – The incident made headlines throughout the weekend: A group of white teenagers on a trip to DC were accused of taunting Native Americans and quickly became internet villains. None more so than Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who was photographed in a standoff with an elderly Native American, Nathan Phillips. Now, however, a more complete picture has emerged of the day's events, one that has caused many of the teens' original critics to back off. Details and developments:

  • In their words: Sandmann and Phillips each say they were trying to de-escalate the confrontation, and the Washington Post has a short video encompassing both views in their own words. Sandmann released this statement, noting that he's getting death threats and pledging to cooperate with school officials, who have said expulsions could result from their investigation.
  • What wasn't shown: The original video that provoked outrage toward the teens did not show that a small group of black men called the Hebrew Israelites had been hurling insults at the teens, reports an explainer at CNN. Some of those insults: "incest babies," "young Klansmen," "cracker," and "future school shooters." See this longer video.
  • Mea culpa: "I Failed the Covington Catholic Test," reads a headline above an essay by Julie Irwin Zimmerman in the Atlantic. She had a knee-jerk reaction to the initial video that she now regrets, and she thinks most people are guilty of the same. "The story is a Rorschach test—tell me how you first reacted, and I can probably tell where you live, who you voted for in 2016, and your general take on a list of other issues—but it shouldn’t be." The incident should not have taken on the importance it did, she adds. "Why are we all so primed for outrage?"

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